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 [Congressional Record: April 11, 2003 (Senate)]
[Page S5345-S5386]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

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STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS By Mr. CORZINE (for himself, Mrs. Clinton, and Mr. Lautenberg): S. 889. A bill to accord honorary citizenship to the alien victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States and to provide for the granting of citizenship to the alien spouses and children of certain victims of such attacks; to the Committee on the Judiciary. Mr. CORZINE. Madam President, I rise today to introduce the Terrorist Victim Citizenship Relief Act, a bill that would provide citizenship relief to many families adversely affected by the attacks of September 11, 2001. In the time since that tragic day, I have met with several of the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks to discuss a variety of measures in the wake of that national calamity. They have been dealing with a personal anguish that many of us can only imagine. In my view, Congress must do more to help the families of the victims of September 11, and the Terrorist Victim Citizenship Relief Act should be a part of that effort. When American citizens, foreign nationals, and immigrants perished in the cowardly terrorist acts of September 11, the immigration status of hundreds of families was thrown into turmoil. The attacks were on American soil on a major American institution and directed at the United States. Yet American citizens were not the only victims. Hundreds of temporary workers and immigrants died shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of Americans. Their deaths should be acknowledged and their families should be honored. My legislation would bestow honorary citizenship on legal immigrants and non-immigrants who died in the disaster. This would honor their spirit and their tremendous sacrifice. Perhaps more important, the bill would offer citizenship to surviving spouses and children, subject to a background investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the spirit of fairness and unity, it is appropriate and responsible to offer the privilege of citizenship to families who lost so much because of this attack on the United States. About 3,000 people lost their lives when four planes crashed on that fateful September morning. Nationals from [[Page S5350]] some 86 countries perished in the attack, including visitors, non- immigrant workers, and legal permanent residents. America was not the only country that suffered losses. There was good reason the complex was called the World Trade Center. In the September 11 attacks, 86 countries including England, Germany, Mexico, Colombia, Japan, Canada, Australia, the Philippines, Ireland, South Africa, and Pakistan suffered tragic losses. And there were many more. In New Jersey, there are dozens of poignant stories of immigrant families who experienced tragic losses in the World Trade Center disaster. These innocent people have lost husbands and wives, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers. Their families have been fractured and their livelihoods jeopardized. Immigrant families have been forced to grapple with a bureaucratic nightmare, wading through the myriad of programs available to the families of victims in an effort to keep their heads above water. They are often disheartened to learn that, although their loved ones died in the same attack, non-citizens are ineligible for many of the programs designed to assist the surviving families of victims. Concerns about immigration status have only added to the tremendous burden immigrant families are already confronting. Take the example of one New Jersey woman who came to my office seeking assistance. Her immigration status was directly dependent on the non-immigrant worker status of her husband who died in the attack. Both of her children were born in the United States. They are full citizens and are enrolled in American schools. She wants to continue to raise her children in the United States. However, under the antiterrorism legislation that was passed in the last Congress, this mother of two is technically deportable right now. My legislation would grant her citizenship immediately, helping her to avoid the burden of removing her children from the only country they have ever truly known, while they are still grappling with the loss of their father. Granting her citizenship is the right thing to do. This woman's story is but one of many. My office has received numerous inquiries from immigrant families concerned that their immigration status has been undermined by the death of a loved one. Many families were in the process of preparing the necessary paperwork to apply for a change in status, only to have their potential sponsor die alongside thousands of others in the World Trade Center attack. This legislation would ensure that those families would be allowed to become American citizens and avoid undue paperwork and heartache. When perpetrating their horrific crime, the terrorists did not distinguish between immigrants and American citizens or between undocumented workers and legal permanent residents. They were attacking the United States, and, in the process, killed thousands, citizens and non-citizens alike. In death, citizenship was irrelevant. The thousands who died did not know it when they went to work, but they were at the front lines in the next American war. Their deaths are a tragedy that every civilized human being wishes could be reversed. Unfortunately, we cannot turn back the clock. However, we can acknowledge the tremendous loss of hundreds of immigrant families by allowing them to take on the full rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation, and ask unanimous consent that the text of the legislation be printed in the Record. There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 889 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the ``Terrorist Victim Citizenship Relief Act''. SEC. 2. FINDINGS. Congress finds the following: (1) On September 11, 2001, the United States suffered a series of attacks which led to the deaths of thousands of people. (2) Hundreds of foreign nationals perished in the attacks on the American institutions on American soil. (3) At that time, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was processing applications for adjustment in immigration status for immigrants who perished in the attacks. (4) The immigrant or nonimmigrant status of many immigrant families depends on the sponsorship of those who perished. (5) The former Immigration and Naturalization Service publicly stated that it would not take action against foreign nationals whose immigration status is in jeopardy as a direct result of the attack. (6) The Commissioner of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service James Ziglar stated that ``the Immigration and Naturalization Service will exercise its discretion toward families of victims during this time of mourning and readjustment''. (7) Only Congress has the authority to change immigration law to address unanticipated omissions in existing law to account for the unique circumstances surrounding the events of September 11, 2001. SEC. 3. DECEASED ALIEN VICTIMS OF TERRORIST ATTACKS DEEMED TO BE UNITED STATES CITIZENS. Notwithstanding title III of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1401 et seq.), and except as provided in section 5, each alien who died as a result of a September 11, 2001, terrorist attack against the United States, shall, as of that date, be considered to be an honorary citizen of the United States if the alien held lawful status under the immigration laws of the United States as of that date. SEC. 4. CITIZENSHIP ACCORDED TO ALIEN SPOUSES AND CHILDREN OF CERTAIN VICTIMS OF TERRORIST ATTACKS. Notwithstanding title III of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1401 et seq.), and except as provided in section 5, an alien spouse or child of an individual who was lawfully present in the United States and who died as a result of a September 11, 2001, terrorist attack against the United States shall be entitled to naturalization as a citizen of the United States upon being administered the oath of renunciation and allegiance in an appropriate ceremony pursuant to section 337 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1448), without regard to the current status of the alien spouse or child under the immigration laws of the United States, if the spouse or child applies to the Secretary of Homeland Security for naturalization not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall record the date of naturalization of any person granted naturalization under this section as being September 10, 2001. SEC. 5. EXCEPTIONS. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, an alien may not be naturalized as a citizen of the United States, or afforded honorary citizenship, under this Act if the alien is-- (1) inadmissible under paragraph (2) or (3) of section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, or deportable under paragraph (2) or (4) of section 237(a) of that Act, including any terrorist perpetrator of a September 11, 2001, terrorist attack against the United States; or (2) a member of the family of a person described in paragraph (1). ______

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